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[Susan notes:
A Virginia parent informs Education Week that "the conversation" about standards and high-stakes tests has begun--and parents are leading it!]

Published in Education Week

To the editor

You are falling into the word games surrounding high-stakes testing("Researchers Debate Impact of Tests," Feb. 5, 2003). Holding bigger sticks

of standardized testing over the heads of younger and younger children isn't stronger accountability; it's educational malpractice.

This "standardized-tests-with-higher-stakes-means-stronger-accountability" theme rears its ugly head in the Stanford University study you reported on. That study rated the strength of various states' accountability efforts and

assigned higher ratings to states that reward and punish younger and younger students with standardized-test scores. The automatic assumption is that higher stakes mean stronger accountability. This assumption is simply wrong.

In Virginia, we are busy making the test statistics dance to the rhythm of the politicians. Manipulating and massaging the pass rates to increase the percentages of schools labeled accredited (all legal and sanctioned by the state, mind you) masquerades as rising student achievement. Other measures outside of our Standards of Learning tests simply aren't matching the rising pass rates. In the end, the children and our communities will pay the price.

People do need to start talking about high-stakes testing and not just about methodologies for studying their effects, as Margaret E. Goertz suggests in your article. Parents across the country have begun the conversation about

taking back their schools from the testing mania that pervades ourchildren's education.

Martin Carnoy, one of the authors of the Stanford study, is right when he says, "There's lots of reasons to be against tests." Let's start with the

mistaken belief that accountability is defined as bubbling-in a few more correctanswers on standardized tests.

Mickey VanDerwerker

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